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Why can't I open Office 07 files in Office 03?

Posted By : of Data Doctors on October 5, 2007

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I have Office 2003 and can't open any files that are sent to me using Office 2007. Why is that? What can I do to resolve it?

- Tito

This question was answered on October 5, 2007. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The folks at Microsoft decided to “move the ball forward” when they created the latest version of the productivity suite known as Office 2007 and decided to use XML based file formats (some are speculating it was also a move to make open source free productivity suites such as Open Office incompatible).

XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language which is more capable of integrating with the Internet and various databases.

Microsoft claims that this new file format is more compact (which means more information will fit in smaller file sizes), better able to recover from file corruption, provides better privacy for shared files and more interoperability with other data systems.

The new file formats are easy to identify because they have an “x” added to the end of the traditional file extensions (docx for Word, xlsx for Excel and pptx for Power Point).

Whenever a new file format is created, older programs are generally incapable of reading them, so those that have Office 2007 need to be cognoscente of this problem.

If you are a user of Office 2007 and you want to send a file to someone that may or may not have the same version, you would be best off saving the file using the older file format.

To do this, use the “Save As” option instead of the Save button and then click on the pull down menu at the bottom (in the ‘save as type:’ section) and choose the “Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc)” option before giving it a name and clicking on the Save button.

Since these steps could be easily forgotten, if you interact with lots of others that don’t have Office 2007, you may want to consider changing the default file format back to the 97-2003 (*.doc) format

To do this, open Microsoft Word 2007 and click on the “Office Button” (top left of your screen), then on the bottom of the list click “Word Options” When the “Word Options” window opens, click on “Save” in the left panel Change the top option (in the right panel) “save files in this format” from “Word Document (*.docx)” to “Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc)“, then click on OK to complete the setup (Follow the same steps for Excel and Power Point.)

If you are on the receiving end of these new documents, you have a couple of options The first would be to reply to the sender and send them this column so they understand what they are doing when they send out these new files and what they can do to be more compatible with the rest of the world.

The other option is to download the file conversion utility from Microsoft so that older Office users can convert the new files without having to “return to sender”.

NOTE: in order for this file conversion utility to be installed, you must have the latest service pack for your version of Office, so you may want to go to and click on the “Check for Updates” button at the top right corner of the site.

For the complete installation details and the link to download the “Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack” go to .

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Posted by of Data Doctors on October 5, 2007

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